Opening Day in Cincinnati a truly unique event

Opening Day in Cincinnati a truly unique event

Opening Day in Cincinnati a truly unique event
CINCINNATI -- Opening Day isn't just the first game of the regular season for the Reds, it's an actual holiday for the city of Cincinnati.

Founded in 1869 as baseball's first professional club, the Reds held Opening Day No. 136 on Thursday vs. the Marlins. As usual, there were no shortage of pomp and circumstance that made the day unique.

"I know how big Opening Day is here. It's larger here than any place I've been," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Once upon a time, the Reds had the honor of playing the very first game of every season. Now the club has the privilege of getting to open every regular season at home.

Cincinnati is also the only big league city that has a venerable parade to celebrate the beginning of a season. For the 93rd time, the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade rolled from the streets of Over-the-Rhine into downtown.

Former Reds star and current ESPN broadcaster Aaron Boone served as grand marshal, and current players Mat Latos and Nick Masset also took part and rode in the back of a car toward Fountain Square.

Just before gametime, the Rosie Reds social group continued their time-honored tradition of presenting fruit baskets to both teams' managers -- Baker from the Reds and Ozzie Guillen from the Marlins.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman served as the game's honorary captain. Retiring Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis bounced a ceremonial first pitch -- but it's Opening Day, so it counted as a strike.

After the introductions of both the Reds and Marlins, there was a moment of silence to honor a former owner, the late Carl Lindner and former Red Jerry Lynch, both whom died during the offseason. The Reds also paused to remember victims of the March tornadoes that devastated parts of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

Grammy Award-winning recording artist Rodney Atkins sang the national anthem as a giant American flag shaped like the country was unfurled across the outfield.

Taking it all in was television personality and singer Nick Lachey, along with his wife Vanessa Minnillo-Lachey, an entertainment reporter. Lachey, a native Cincinnatian, has previously thrown a ceremonial first pitch at a Reds opener.

"It's literally my favorite day of the year for this city to be able to have our opener at home every year," Lachey said. "It's an unofficial holiday. The sun is shining and everyone is optimistic. Opening Day is perfect. Everyone starts at zero. There is nothing but promise. It's a good day."

Even for a veteran player of 17 seasons like Reds third baseman Scott Rolen, Opening Day remains a special time -- no matter the city where it's being held.

"It's always been a celebration time for baseball across the country," Rolen said. "Everybody fills their stadiums up, and I think people look forward to it, people get excited about it -- fans and players -- you get your nerves and butterflies and everything. Everybody is looking for their first hit and all that stuff. That's not the important stuff. You go out there and the country is looking forward to that day."